When I entered the Empty Shop and walked past the unmade bed and the scarce kitchen set-up, I admit that my hopes weren’t overly high, especially when I realised that this would be the basis of the entire production. How much can happen in a kitchen? As it turns out, a lot.
David Hare’s Skylight condenses a lifetime of love, loss and experience into a single freezing winter’s night. When schoolteacher Kyra Hollis (Elissa Churchill) receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, Tom Sergeant (Tristan Robinson), a successful and charismatic restauranteur whose wife has recently died, the two attempt to rekindle their passionate relationship. As the evening progresses, they find themselves locked in a dangerous battle of opposing ideologies and mutual desires, searching for forgiveness in the fading January light.
To begin with, everything about Fourth Wall Theatre’s production screamed “minimalistic” – the set was sparse and the cast consisted of all of three people. However, it was all entirely sufficient for the purpose of the play and, most importantly, effective. The intimacy of these characters’ stories was perfectly reflected and in fact, had it been located anywhere else – i.e. the Assembly Rooms – I doubt that it would have been pulled off so well.
This is an important point about Skylight: on the surface, it is simple – man and woman have affair, heartbreak ensues. However, delve a little deeper and you realise that everything about Hare’s production has been carefully thought out, from the underlying vulnerability of the otherwise brash and confident Tom to the intricate relationships between the characters. Churchill, Robinson and Harvey Comerford (Edward, Tom’s son) were perfect for the roles and portrayed the complex natures of the characters wonderfully (not to mention the sheer quantity of monologues to remember which, alone, deserves applause).
Despite the fact that there were no scene changes and only three cast members throughout the entire production, I found myself absorbed and time seemed to fly by. With the exception of a few longer than average pauses as Churchill scrambled to change costume, the production flowed excellently, to the credit of everyone involved. From the dimming of the lights, denoting a change in the passage of time, to the conversations between Kyra and Edward and Tom, everything was natural, realistic and very believable.
Additionally, the humour was generally well received because it was delivered effectively and smoothly. Yes, some lines didn’t quite cut the mustard, but as a whole, the cast ought to be commended. Of particular note in this respect was Comerford, whose refreshing childlike innocence brought life and laughter into what was otherwise, at times, a emotionally raw and sombre production.
There is no definable ending to this story, but in real life there never is. Rather, the play came to a natural end and I left wondering what could have happened, had the characters chosen different paths. In that respect, Skylight was a stark reminder of the uncertainty of life and the fact that our actions have consequences that won’t simply disappear because we turn our backs on them.
Don’t come to Skylight expecting a fast-paced and action-packed adventure. Rather, expect a story that will make you think about your past, present and future and a memorable, commendable performance by everyone involved.
I do have one other recommendation, however: don’t come to this one with an empty stomach, as I did. You have been warned.